Tonight I was just farting around Bellevue and ended up at the Michael's in Crossroads. I was looking at some paper stuff when I heard from the next aisle a woman asking multiple questions about colored pencils. The guy who had unlocked the pencil vault to get a Prismacolor 12 color was apologizing that he really didn't know a whole lot about colored pencils.
"Oh, shoot. I really don't know if this is what she wants..."
Okay, this looked like an intervention was needed. I stepped around the endcap and said, "I use colored pencils quite often; perhaps I could help?" The clerk nodded, told her how to get a 40% off coupon on her cell phone and then I explained what a colored pencil is, what the differences were between the different brands and talked about sharpening and how not to put pressure on the tip when sharpened, etc. Probably more information than she needed, but she at least knew she was getting a good set of pencils at a decent price (presuming she used the coupon).
I went about my business and a minute later, the woman had tracked me down and said, "I'm really sorry to interrupt your shopping, but what about erasers?"
All in all, it felt good to have been useful, if only for a few minutes.
I was pointed towards the website for Sneaky Cards today, and after reading about the game and thinking, "How fun!" I immediately quashed the idea of buying it.
Yes, it's fun to track your cards, but I've done enough other tracking websites like Where's George? and Bookcrossing to know that people don't tend to actually bother to go somewhere on-line and track things. When I run across a Where's George? bill, I always hold onto it until I can track it because I know that someone out there is just waiting on a hit that will probably never come. I know the pain of throwing trackable items out into the world and never hearing from them again and I try to prevent it when I can.
So, if I hand out one of these cards to a stranger, it may change hands dozens of times, but not one hit will be recorded on-line. That's just the way we are as a culture. It depresses me a little, actually.
The last three nights we have had a house guest; a friend that up until now we had only talked to via the magic of the Internet. This morning he drove to the airport to continue his United States vacation in another state. Although we didn't spend a lot of time together while he was here, the fact that we'd spent so much time conversing via webcam or instant messaging over the last few years, it was like having an old friend who lives in Seattle come over. I really wish he could've stayed longer.
Back in 1986, the seventh novel in the Virgil Tibbs series by John Ball had been published and John was going to various bookstores in the area to do signings. At the time I was working at Grounds for Murder in San Diego and the signing he did there wasn't extremely well attended, but several devoted fans showed up to get Singapore in hardcover. I remember one of them was a regular who was an elderly woman who was always dressed sharply and with perfect hair. She and John were talking next to the counter then she grabbed a book off the pile and had him sign it. When he handed it back to her, she said, "Oh, I just love that Virgil Tibbs!"
John Ball died just over a year after that. The television show based on his books had aired a first season by then. I don't know what he thought of it. Since then, he's faded into semi-obscurity in the mystery world, but there are those of us who still remember him and what he accomplished in the genre before leaving us.
Years ago I read a "Lost in Space" comic about a carnivorous cave that lured creatures in, had them remember all their good memories which rendered them catatonic. The cave then walled them up in stone to digest. The Robinsons got trapped, but eventually broke free because humans are more complex than your average critter. When they remembered good times, eventually bad memories related to the good times cropped up which shattered the psionic hold. "Inside Out" had a similar idea in that memories are not just one emotion and that sad and happy are sometimes mixed in a single core memory.
Such is the case here. When I was a pre-teen (back before we were called "tweens") I went to a music based summer camp where I played cello. We played music most of the day, then evenings were some form of entertainment. I'm not sure why that camp came back to me, but while I was replaying it in my head, the evening of dancing came up and I remembered the circle dance where you traded partners every verse. More specifically, I remembered the girls who would shriek in terror when they saw that I was next in line. One even backed up and yelled at me to not touch her. At the time I thought it was funny that my mere presence was enough to strike mortal fear into the heart of a girl. It didn't remain funny for very long.
So, the psionic hold shattered and I went back to cleaning the kitchen.
I was reminded yesterday of a book entitled The Glory Hole Murders that came out in the mid 80's by a woman named Tony Fennelly about a man found dead in a tea room stall. The method of murder was extremely violent and described in extreme detail. Definitely not for the faint of heart.
At the time I was working afternoons at Grounds for Murder bookstore in San Diego. There was this older lady who came in regularly and was always looking for what was "new" and "happening" in crime fiction and so she picked up this particular book (against our recommendations) and then later came back saying how traumatic it was and how she needed counseling afterwards. I told her to not read any James Ellroy or Andrew Vacchs, then.
This lady was an odd duck, that's for sure. Once she asked if I was a virgin and I said yes. Each time she came in she wanted to know if I'd lost it. One summer when I was home from school she asked again and I said, "That depends. Are we talking women, men, or animals?" She laughed her ass off and never asked me again.
A local company is staging a production of "Into The Woods" this spring and their audition notice just went up. Now, I know these people, have worked with a few in the past and they're a great bunch of guys. Their passion for live theater and their willingness to try some oddball plays or musicals makes them special and I'm glad that they're around.
The problem, though, is that they're a small non-profit, so they have almost no budget and can only afford to pay a stipend of $50 for the entire production start to finish. I did the math and if I auditioned, got cast and did the show, it would cost me nearly $700 in gas, tolls, parking fees and other related expenses. Also, from my past experiences, I would probably have to provide some of, if not all of my own costuming as I'm fat and most costumers not at the Equity level just don't have items to fit me and don't have the budget to go out and get anything. I've lost count at the number of costumers who have, upon measuring me, said, "You wouldn't happen to own any of...?"
"But you shouldn't be in it for the money!" is the usual thing that I hear, and it's true. You're not going to get rich doing stage shows. But on the other hand, our finances can't handle that kind of financial hit just so I can sing Sondheim for a couple of weekends.
I know they'll be putting on a fine show. But I just can't afford to be part of it.
As 2014 draws to a close, I find myself at one of those moments where one questions his choices in life and things that used to fill me with purpose and joy now don't.
For example, I used to do stage acting. But I'm at a point now where I don't find it fulfilling at the level I've been doing it, but I've been unsuccessful in getting regular work at the next level. I did one Equity show in 2006 and have been unable to get cast in anything Equity since then. Either I just don't get cast when I am asked to come in and read, or I can't do it because it interferes with my day job. Semi-pro just doesn't pay enough (for example, costs in excess of $500 in gas over three months for a $150 stipend) and community theater doesn't pay at all. I've already gone inactive in SAG-AFTRA so I don't have that outlet for the moment, either.
Now, I've been told that acting isn't about the money, that we do it for love, which is true, but sometimes, you need to pay bills more than you need the love. There are Equity actors I know who do what they call "eating jobs" which means doing a role that doesn't stretch you as an actor but you're getting a decent paycheck doing it.
I used to do a lot of filking, too, but these days I can't work up much enthusiasm for it any longer. I figured this out last month when I had to cancel going to a convention and I wasn't sad or disappointed. I figure if I'm having that kind of reaction, maybe I should just stop doing it.
The thing is, I still have many friends who act and do filk, and I don't want to just fall off the planet, never to be seen again. But right now, I'm looking at 2015 and wondering what to do with myself. I see many roads ahead of me, but I don't see them clearly and I'm hoping to find some clarity soon.
Seanan McGuire mentioned on Facebook how weird San Diego feels when the International Comicon is not going on. This reminded me of my first full convention, which happened to be the San Diego Comicon back in 1991. I was 22 years old, fresh out of college and a total nerd. I was staying with my parents, who insisted on dropping me off rather than having me try and find parking because parking was in very short supply.
While I was walking around looking at all the folks in costume and seeing all the neat stuff that you could buy, I happend across the Disney table and they gave me a ticket for a special showing of "The Rocketeer" which had just released to the theaters. I'd already seen it by that point but hey, free movie, not going to turn that down.
That night I headed down to Horton Plaza which was not too far from my parents' house, and egad it was busy. Finding a parking spot was a pain in the rear and when I got to the theater there was a huge line of convention goers waiting to get into the film. I found the end of the line and got in it. A minute later a Starfleet officer and a Klingon got in line behind me.
"Is this for 'The Rocketeer'?" the officer asked me.
"Yes. I just got here myself as I ended up having to park at the top level of the garage because there were no other spots anywhere!"
The Klingon looked at me quizzically. "Why didn't you just walk from the hotel?"
I blinked and said, "Uh, I live here?"
Welcome to the world of conventions, where a Klingon questions your drive versus walk decisions.